Other sports: Vietnam hosts aim for world championship title after 19 years

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PETALING JAYA: Vietnam showed their pedigree by becoming overall champions as first hosts in 2003 and expect the same dominance at home again.

Vietnam soared with 158-97-91 medals 19 years ago and this time they expect 140 gold medals from 1,300 athletes who will compete in the 40 sports.

Shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh had been Vietnam’s toast when he became the country’s first Olympic gold medalist at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 (10m air pistol) and won the 2019 SEA Games in Manila . This time he will guide future stars as a coach.

The focus will undoubtedly be on football and this is where Vietnam would like to defend their men’s and women’s titles.

Athletics has remained Vietnam’s forte since the arrival of natural athletes from the southern China region, a process that began before the 2003 SEA Games, and are expected to win a big blow if their Manila tally of 16-12-10 is anything. go by.

Although sprint queen Le Tu Chinh’s hopes in the 100m have been dashed by injury, Vietnam is set to dominate the women’s track events where it won 10 of 12 gold medals in Manila.

We will count on the middle-distance Duong Van Thai to achieve the 800m-1,500m double.

Nguyen Huy Hoang, winner of the 800m at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympics, will lead Vietnam’s swimming charge, where he won 10 gold medals last time out. Meanwhile, Vovinam – the country’s traditional sport – will add to its golden tally with 15 events contested.

Indonesia, once the region’s undisputed superpower, will be led by Southeast Asia’s fastest man, Lalu Zohri.

Lalu, the former world junior 100m champion with a personal best 10.03s, did not compete at the 2019 Games but is back to claim the 100m-200m double sprint.

Badminton, despite having a team of second stringers, is still Indonesia’s passion where they are aiming for three gold medals thanks to Asian men’s doubles champions Pramudya Kusumawardhani-Yeremiah Rambitan, fast-rising Chico Aura (men’s singles) and to women’s doubles Apriyani Rahayu-Siti Fadhiah Ramadhanti.

Indonesia is traditionally strong in weightlifting, pencak silat, canoeing, shooting and judo, where it can expect the gold to sink.

Panipak Wongpattanakit will be Thailand’s biggest name in Hanoi after winning women’s -49kg gold at the Tokyo Olympics and will lead the national charge in taekwondo.

Taekwondo has contributed seven gold medals to Thailand but could face a challenge from Vietnam for bragging rights.

The Thais are expected to reign supreme in muay thai and boxing, where they are world class.

Despite Vietnam’s stronghold in athletics, Thailand will be aiming for a 10-figure record in Hanoi. They are also expected to shine in judo, sailing and shooting.

Hidilyn Diaz will be the darling of the Philippine contingent as the country’s first Olympic gold medalist. Diaz won a historic weightlifting gold medal in Tokyo last year in the women’s 65kg category.

World champion and four-time SEA Games champion Carlos Yulo hopes to inspire them in gymnastics.

The women will be powered by former US gymnast Aleah Finnegan, who was part of the team that won gold at the 2019 Pan American Games.

The eternal Efren Reyes, multiple world champion in billiards, will lead the Philippine billiards and snooker.

Known as the Magician, Reyes, 67, is yet to win gold at the SEA Games and will try to do so in the carom events.

Winning the men’s basketball event is a matter of pride for the “Gilas Filipinas”, as they are known, and will be led by brothers Ravena Kiefer and Thirdy in pursuit of a staggering 19th gold medal.

Former Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, 27, may be at the end of his career but the butterfly king should have no problem adding to his gold tally of 27 so far. Singapore has Quah Zheng Wen and her sisters Jing Wen and Ting Wen who have combined 13 gold medals out of the 23 won by the nation in Manila.

Let’s not forget world champion Loh Kean Yew who would only be the second player after Wong Shoon Keat to win a men’s singles gold medal at the SEA Games.

The other nations – Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste – shouldn’t make a ripple in Hanoi if their tally of 11 gold medals in Manila is any indication.

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